Academic journal article Psychology, Community & Health

Posttraumatic Growth in the Aftermath of Trauma: A Literature Review about Related Factors and Application Contexts

Academic journal article Psychology, Community & Health

Posttraumatic Growth in the Aftermath of Trauma: A Literature Review about Related Factors and Application Contexts

Article excerpt

[Author Affiliation]

Catarina Ramos: UIPES - Psychology and Health Research Unit, I&D, ISPA - University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal:

Isabel Leal: UIPES - Psychology and Health Research Unit, I&D, ISPA - University Institute, Lisbon, Portugal:

Posttraumatic Growth in the Aftermath of Trauma

Highly stressful events or major life traumas (such as serious illness, road traffic accident, death of a relative or loved one, unemployment, divorce, etc.) can lead to a variety of behavioural, psychological and emotional negative outcomes to the disruptive and aversive conditions (Taku, Cann, Tedeschi, & Calhoun, 2009). The trauma might have a negative impact on individual adjustment to circumstances surrounding the event, such as psychological distress, depression, anxiety and even symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are well described and documented in the literature (Bostock, Sheikh, & Barton, 2009 ; Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2001 ; Linley, Joseph, & Goodfellow, 2008). Moreover, there is a growing body of literature suggesting the existence of perceived positive outcomes in the aftermath of a traumatic event (Affleck & Tennen, 1996 ; Helgeson, Reynolds, & Tomich, 2006 ; Park, Cohen, & Murch, 1996 ; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996).

Posttraumatic Growth: Definition and Characterization of the Concept

These positive changes have been characterized through several concepts in the literature, namely: posttraumatic growth, stress-related growth, benefit-finding, perceived benefits, thriving, positive by-products, stren conversion, positive psychological changes, flourishing, positive adjustment, and positive adaptation (Helgeson et al., 2006 ; Linley & Joseph, 2004 ; Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004).

Posttraumatic growth (PTG) is the most used construct to describe the positive changes experienced as a result of the psychological and cognitive efforts made in order to deal with challenging circumstances (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2001). As described by Tedeschi and Calhoun (2004), PTG "is the individual's struggle with the new reality in the aftermath of trauma that is crucial in determining the extent to which posttraumatic growth occurs" (p. 5).

Measurement of Posttraumatic Growth

Until now, five self-report measures to assess growth as a multidimensional construct have been developed and validated: Changes in Outlook Questionnaire (Joseph, Williams, & Yule, 1993 as cited in Joseph & Linley, 2008); Stress Related Growth Scale (Park et al., 1996); Perceived Benefit Scale (McMillen & Fisher, 1998); Thriving Scale (Abraído-Lanza, Guier, & Colón, 1998); and Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996), which has been the most used measure, a number of empirical studies that certify its factor structure have been published (see also Joseph & Linley, 2008).

Based on the factor analysis of the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory, Tedeschi and Calhoun (1996, 2004) described PTG as having 5 domains: "personal strength", "new possibilities", "relating to others", "appreciation of life", and "spiritual change".

Domains of Posttraumatic Growth

Considering the division of growth in five domains (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 1996, 2004) the characteristics and particularities of each dimension will be now described in more detail.

Greater Appreciation of Life and Changed Sense of Priorities

As a result of the cognitive reconstruction due to the confrontation with trauma, the subject has a sense of individual vulnerability and understands that he cannot predict or control certain events (Calhoun & Tedeschi, 2001). In recognizing the volatility of life, he starts, frequently, changing the previous degree of importance ascribed to certain events. The subject begins, thus, to pay attention to small things that were previously considered insignificant or unimportant (Tedeschi & Calhoun, 2004), resulting in a change of life priorities and a greater appreciation of life (Lindstrom, Cann, Calhoun, & Tedeschi, 2013). …

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